Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Remembering the Roma of Europe

I was in Macedonia a few years ago and I had come from Gostivar to Skopje to catch the plane back to London the next day, via Vienna.  It had been 35 years or so since I was in Macedonia.  Last time I was there it was a province of Yugoslavia and you couldn't get in to Albania.  I loved Yugoslavia and my stay in Macedonia then and did this time although I was followed one time, I figured by some CIA flunkies.  They had already kidnapped one guy in Macedonia and sent him to one of their torture centers.  They figured I was not al Qaeda I guess and out to destroy the freedoms that we have back home and let me be.

As you cross in to the square in Skopje from the old city to the new you leave the world of the poor and in to this patch of the modern world. I crossed the bridge over the Vadar river and looked down in to it. There were floating cans and plastic bottles. I felt sad thinking all this stuff flows in to the Aegean Sea.  It was so much dirtier it seemed to me than before but I'm not sure.  I stayed the night in a modern hotel and went for a beer in a trendy bar populated by all the foreigners who flooded in to Macedonia after the fall of Tito and the break up of the country.  As I came out there were a bunch of Roma children sitting there and they approached me for money; approached is putting it mildly.  I wrote about my experience back then:
"As I left there was a small Roma child begging outside the door.  I don't normally give money to people in this way but decided I would as I had to get rid of some Dinars.  I gave the kid 10 dinars (about $2).  Before I knew it I was surrounded by children, grabbing at my shirt, pleading with me, grabbing the bag I had in my hand.  I had to get aggressive with them,  "I gave to him already I shouted, leave me now.", but they persisted, literally blocking my path, not threatening but pointing to their mouths or putting their hands to the side of their head like a pillow, like they wanted money to stay somewhere.  It was like a scene from a Dickens novel."

Two dead Roma children as folks get their tan
I saw lots of these children in that part of the world last time I drove down the Adriatic coast to Macedonia 30 or more years before.  The situation though seemed much better back then although, like in all of Europe, the Roma have been discriminated and brutalized for centuries. 

I am reminded of the poverty and discrimination of the Roma reading about the two young Roma who drowned on a beach in Italy and their dead bodies laid there on the beech covered by blankets for hours as bathers sunned themselves.(left)  You can read more about this here.

It's sickening when you think of it and the worst part is that it is the norm in so many places. Capitalism is a brutal system.  You call this civilization.  Children are among the most abused and exploited as no one speaks for them really, adults have power over them. Most sexual abuse takes place withing the family from people of authroty that we know This sort of stuff is what gives me the strength to keep fighting.

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